Susan Zarnowski Headshot

Susan Zarnowski

Socioeconomic and Class Issues in Higher Education KC Chair-Elect

Case Manager
Southern Connecticut State University


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Joint Candidate Statement

We are writing to formally express our interest in applying to become the Co-Chairs for the NASPA Socioeconomic and Class Issues Knowledge Community. We believe that our previous professional experience, our leadership experience in various professional organizations, and our research interests has given us the skills needed to be successful in this role.

Susan’s personal statement:

My name is Susan Zarnowski and I work as a Case Manager at Southern Connecticut State University. Within my role as Case Manager, I help students with basic needs support, financial assistance, manage an on-campus food pantry, serve as the point of contact for homeless students, manage the technology loaner program for WiFi and computers with IT, and serve on the New Haven County’s Youth Homelessness Committee. The majority of students I work with are from lower socioeconomic statuses, trying to navigate working multiple jobs, supporting their families, being able to afford textbooks and food, and managing their coursework.

My doctoral work through the University of Southern California is to understand how institutional support structures contributed to first-generation low-income college students’ persistence to their sophomore year. Given the growing population of first-generation college students in the United States, educators and administrators are faced with researching best practices and assessing existing institutional support structures to understand the role, if any, these structures have in helping students connect with their institution, and ultimately persist. How helpful would it be if we were able to assess, evaluate, and/or research institutional support structure’s effectiveness for students representing various class structures? How can we create a collective voice as institutions to eliminate barriers with textbooks, computers, WiFi, and basic needs for students from a lower socioeconomic status to feel confident in the ability to do their work? How do we advocate for our students who have economic challenges and privacy issues as they participate in classes from home?

Amanda’s personal statement:

I’m Amanda Morales and I currently serve as the Director of Housing at Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi. Through that role I oversee the management of student housing and work with campus partners to ensure a great experience for our residents. Having served at multiple levels of campus housing (from Resident Assistant to Director) I have been able to be on the front lines of student engagement, community building, crises response, and support. In doing so, I have seen how acutely socioeconomic status and class affect students throughout their collegiate journey.

While I am just beginning my doctoral studies and haven’t found my exact research topic yet, my work will deal with how socioeconomic status and class impact the student experience and how the academy can better assist them. I am confident that my work in the Educational Leadership program at Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi will aid in the SCIHE Co-Chair role as I learn best practices, continue to develop my educational belief system, and work towards expanding the knowledge regarding seriocomic and class issues as related to college students.

Joint Leadership Platform

One of the most meaningful of our leadership roles so far has been working with the NASPA Socioeconomic and Class Issues in Higher Education Knowledge Community. We know how crucial this work is to the success of our students. As the number of students from the poor and working class enrolling in college continues to rise, it is imperative that we work to offer our knowledge, resources and developmental opportunities for NASPA membership through the SCIHE KC. How students navigate through college, the social capitol they acquire, the opportunities they may have, where they work, how they live, what they eat—all of these and more can impact the experience of students. Through the co-chair role, we hope to assist in the continuation of the SCIHE KC’s great work “to be dynamic and supportive around issues of class and socioeconomic status as they affect Higher Education” to impact positive change at the academy.

We believe in a pragmatic approach: taking action, using our voices, and strategically thinking on ways to eliminate barriers for students of all classes. We believe in collaboration - socioeconomic status and class can have a myriad of impacts on student success, so how can we team together with other knowledge communities to better support our ever-changing college student population along with their various identities and interests? 

Our platform for the SCIHE will be twofold. Dr. Shonda Goward and Mitchell Holston, the current SCIHE co-chairs, have put in place a powerful agenda for this Knowledge Community that will be continued in the coming years. As such, we will keep working on the following items from their platform during our tenure:  

  • Collaborate with other KC’s to bring awareness to intersectionalities with socioeconomic status and class of students in higher education for professionals to better understand, support, and guide these students.
  • Provide professional development and learning opportunities for professionals to assess, evaluate, and research their institutional support structures from a social justice and class lens
  • Spotlight institutions who are running food pantries, homeless shelters, and other programs that support students of a lower socioeconomic status for others to gain resources, knowledge, and tools on duplicating or maximizing their institutional efforts

 In addition to continuing the work of the current co-chairs, our goals include: 

  • An exploration of data surrounding COVID-19 and the impacts of the pandemic on students, staff, and faculty from a socioeconomic and class lens to be shared with KC membership.
  • Forming a sub-committee to focus on various barriers students face on a college campus in an effort to share resources with the KC membership at-large.
  • Host programming workshops throughout the year to share best practices, encourage more KC members to submit program proposals for NASPA events, promote submission deadlines, and other conference opportunities.
  • Develop a survey to assess needs and seek understanding of what the membership hopes to gain from the KC. This would involve an audit of all positions to ensure that they match position descriptions and are well-supported through mentorship, regular meetings with leadership team members, and annual timelines. 
  • Focus on growth by creating a marketing campaign aimed at showcasing the SCIHE KC. The marketing would include updating the KC website and utilizing social media platforms to understand and capitalize on membership engagement. The marketing campaign would focus on efforts of intentional recruitment and education on the KC to ensure awareness.
  • In addition to increased engagement, a goal of strengthening membership would also include higher participation in our fundraising campaign, thereby helping us to assist more SA pros through conference support, research grants, and scholarships. 
  • Advocating for fully online conference options at a reduced rate for NASPA events to increase access to resources for students, faculty and staff.

 We thank you for your time and consideration.